Around the world, machine builders in the metal forming and presses industry are under more pressure than ever before. Today's tough competitive environment and uncertain economic conditions mean design engineers must continually increase the efficiency and reliability of their machines.

The engineers must offer better ways to boost manufacturing productivity, ensure safety and provide enhanced quality products for a new generation of machines, in addition to providing smart solutions for cost-effective retrofits that add significant value to existing machines.

From top global automotive manufacturing facilities to small, specialised job shops, motion control solutions are needed to increase productivity, minimise operating costs and improve finished product quality while ensuring operational safety.

The rising costs of energy combined with increasing regulatory pressures mean more machine builders are exploring all-electric solutions for both new build and retrofit applications. There is clearly an increasing need for cleaner, more cost-effective electric motion control solutions - from brushless servomotors and servo drives to highperformance electric servo actuators.

The design and production of the key components inside digital valves and radial piston pumps helps minimise downtime and ensures machine availability in critical manufacturing applications. Working closely with customers, the motion control solutions need to be tailored to meet the machine's specific performance requirements - whether it is a press that is as tall as a threefloor building or a small punch press.

Ensuring Process Repeatability
Sophisticated force control and positioning accuracy is the key to improved product output, shorter cycle times and greater process repeatability. The solutions and intelligent system controls need to offer unsurpassed precision for more costeffective and productive metal forming and manufacturing.

Minimising costly downtime begins with getting the most out of the presses and manufacturing equipment. The systems and solutions need to feature sophisticated diagnostics designed to prevent disruption or machine failure. The technology needs to be complemented with a team of experts who can help get the most out of the machine investment through careful machine set-up and ongoing preventive maintenance programs.

For maximising equipment longevity, one of the core capabilities needed is to retrofit older machines to provide enhanced performance, more cost-effective operation and longer life. This calls for providing technology-independent know-how about specific components, using hydraulic, hybrid or fully electric systems to improve operator safety.

Need For An Innovative Approach
Today's global marketplace is creating unique engineering and design issues for both machine designers and component suppliers that were not considered; particularly important when products were designed, built, and used in only one country or continent.

Designing the next-generation packaging machine, semiconductor process tool, or electronic assembly system for China, Brazil, France, or the US requires that machine designers and component suppliers address a variety of issues including cultural, logistical, component availability, tooling, technical standards, and service.

Some of these issues are more easily addressed, but others call for better up-front planning, more time, and spend. One thing is certain, it is changing the way system and component suppliers are engineering and manufacturing their next-generation products.

An Italian manufacturer of high-end systems for machining sheet metal who already used electric motion control technology sought to develop a next-generation machine with even higher performance. The company was in need of an electric solution that maximises productivity and sets a new standard for future machines.

The challenge was to develop a machine that incorporated electric motion control technology with less wiring and an Ethernetbased high-speed serial link..

To achieve the customer's vision, the engineers pioneered the first-ever use of r e a l - t i m e , h i g h - s p e e d E t h e r n e t communication between the servo-drive and the motion controller. This breakthrough affords better management of machine operations by allowing access to real-time data through the serial link. In addition, the m a c h i n e ' s d e s i g n i n c o r p o r a t e s a customised servo- drive integrated with motion controller and software, and reduces wiring/cabling requirements by more than 50 percent compared to hydraulic machines.